Building » Walton-le-Dale – Our Lady and St Patrick

Walton-le-Dale – Our Lady and St Patrick

Higher Walton Road, Walton-le-Dale, Preston, Lancs PR5

A substantial stone-built church in fourteenth century Gothic style, and an early design by Peter Paul Pugin, built for a parish long served by the Douai Benedictines. The church has recently undergone major reordering, retaining the three stone altars and other historic features. With its adjoining presbytery, war memorial, school and burial ground the church holdings form a prominent group in the local street scene. 

Walton grew as a textile centre from the eighteenth century, with major expansion of the cotton industry in the mid-nineteenth century. Long served by itinerant priests, mainly Benedictines, the mission was formally established in 1855, when the Revd J. B. Smith, an Ampleforth Benedictine, acquired land for a chapel and school. A dual-purpose school-chapel designed by a Mr Hughes opened in 1857 and in 1858 the first presbytery was built (architect again Hughes). Two years later a plot of land was acquired for a burial ground.

The need for a large purpose-built church became ever more pressing, and on 24 August 1879 Bishop Vaughan laid the foundation stone for the present building, designed by Peter Paul Pugin (builder Mr Hothersall of Preston). The completed church was opened by the bishop on 19 October 1880. It cost £5,223 and was capable of seating over 500. The mission priest at this time was the Revd George Romuald Turner, a Douai Benedictine (the mission was to pass into the hands of that abbey in 1890).

Pugin’s drawings for the church and presbytery (reproduced in The Architect, 14 February 1880) show a south porch; it appears this was never built, although there remains a blocked doorway in this position. The presbytery was built in 1887 without the gables; nevertheless, it is likely to be by Pugin, and was attributed to him in the parish history published in The Tablet on 6 September 1930. The baptistery is also a later addition, as is the parish hall to the west (built using materials from the original school-chapel).

The church was redecorated and the Caen stone high altar installed, following Pugin’s designs, in 1907 (probably made by Boulton of Cheltenham). The Sacred Heart altar and probably the Lady altar were added at the same time, as were Stations of the Cross. A baptistery was added in 1930 and the church further redecorated for the church’s consecration in 1930.  Other embellishments, possibly from around this time, included a hanging crucifix, stone pulpit and Derbyshire granite altar rails.

In 1920 a fine Portland stone Crucifix memorial to the parish dead of the First World War was unveiled outside the entrance to the church.

In 1951 Douai transferred the parish to the diocese. Three years later the church was again redecorated for the centenary of the mission, this time in a simplified style, with some of the stencil work in the sanctuary overpainted.

Post-Vatican II reordering was minor in nature, involving the introduction of a portable altar in front of the communion rails. More recently (2005-9), a more radical transformation of the interior has been completed at a cost of about £250,000. This has involved major repair and redecoration, extension forwards of the sanctuary, with the communion rails removed and a more permanent forward altar of appropriate design, extension of the western gallery to create an enlarged social area, and conversion of the former baptistery to WCs, with the font moved to the west end of the nave. The former parish hall is now a nursery.

The church and presbytery are fully described in the list entry, below, which was revised and considerably expanded in 2017, following Taking Stock.

List description


Summary: Church, 1879-1880 and presbytery 1887 by Peter Paul Pugin. C14 Gothic style.

Reasons for Designation: The Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady and St Patrick of 1880 and Presbytery of 1887 is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: Architectural interest: * Design interest: a well-composed church with clear vertical emphasis and a distinguished C14 Gothic style; * Architect: a relatively early design by Peter Paul Pugin, a significant Catholic church architect whose designs share characteristics with those of his father and brother; * Interior: a tall and light aisled design with particularly well-executed arcades incorporating accomplished, detailed naturalistic fruit and flower carvings; * Fixtures and fittings: it retains a number of good quality fixtures and fittings including the Pugin-designed high altar and two side altars, ornate reredos, granite pulpit and modified altar rails; Historic interest: * A notable church built to support the growing Catholic population of Lancashire during the C19. Group value: * The attached presbytery compliments the church exterior and taken together they form a functional and spatial grouping, which is enhanced by the survival of contemporary entrances flanked by ornate gate piers.

History: The expanding textile town of Walton had long been served by itinerant priests, mainly Benedictine’s, when a mission was formally established in 1855 and a school-chapel was constructed. Rising congregations led to the need for a larger church, and on 24 August 1879 Bishop Vaughan laid the foundation stone for the present building, designed by Peter Paul Pugin (1851-1904) and constructed by Mr Hothersall of Preston. The church opened on 19 October 1880 at a cost of £5,225 and could seat 500. A planned S porch to the church depicted on original plans, was not constructed although a blocked doorway is located in this position. The attached presbytery was built in 1887 to a different design to that shown on the original plans and it too is considered to be by Pugin. In 1902 the present organ by H Y Ainscough of Preston was installed at a cost of £300. In 1907 the Pugin designed high altar was installed as were the Sacred Heart and the Lady altars (probably by Boulton) and the Stations of the Cross. The baptistery was added in 1930 when the church was also consecrated. Other fittings dating from this time include the hanging crucifix, stone pulpit and the altar rails of Derbyshire granite. In 1951 the mission was transferred from Douai to the diocese and three years later it was redecorated and some of the original stencil drawing to the sanctuary overpainted. There was only minor post-Vatican II reordering, but in 2005-9 a more radical transformation of the interior was undertaken; this involved repair and redecoration, the forward extension of the sanctuary and the re-siting of the communion rails, extension of the W gallery to create a large social area and conversion of the former baptistery to toilets. Cuthbert Welby Pugin and Peter Paul Pugin, younger sons of AWN Pugin, took over the family architectural firm after the death of their elder brother E W Pugin in 1863. They produced a very large number of buildings and furnishings for the Catholic Church and there are examples of their work in almost every Catholic Diocese in Britain. Although Peter Paul Pugin’s earlier churches were strongly influenced by his father and brother, by the 1880s he had developed a very recognisable curvilinear Gothic style, usually in red sandstone with elaborate altarpieces in coloured marbles. His designs are considered more conservative than those of his father or brother but share many of their characteristics including their vertical emphasis.

Details: Church, 1879-80 and presbytery 1887 by Peter Paul Pugin. C14 Gothic style. MATERIALS: rock-faced stone with ashlar dressings and banding, slate roof. PLAN: the church has a nave with aisles, a canted apse, south west stair turret with spire, and N baptistry. The presbytery is attached to the church by a connecting staircase range at the NE corner.

EXTERIOR: the church occupies a large corner site parallel to the main road and on ground which slopes up to the rear. It has a moulded stone eaves cornice, cross finials, a coped plinth and there is ashlar banding to some elevations. Windows to the aisles and sanctuary have hoodmoulds and cubic stops. The canted apse has tall paired lancets with trefoil heads to its E facing sides and a wide cill band; there are triple quatrefoils to the N and S sides above the aisles. The E gables of the aisles have large circular windows with trefoil tracery. The S aisle has four windows and the N aisle has three, all of 3-lights under a pointed Tudor arch, with trefoils in the heads, and all alternating with narrow strip pilasters. The SW bay of the nave has a blocked pointed-arch entrance. Rising above, the clerestory has paired cusped single lights to each bay. There is a gabled baptistery at the W end of the N aisle, with banded stonework and early perpendicular window, and at the NE end is a single-story gabled sacristy. At the SW corner of the nave there is an octagonal stair turret with ashlar banding, slit windows and terminating in a belfry with a short spire. The W end has a central doorway, reached by three stone steps, with a moulded pointed-arch and hoodmould and stops, set in a shallow gabled porch, flanked by triple slit windows. To either side the W gables of the aisles have a tall pointed-arch window, that to the N aisle between narrow buttresses. Above the entrance is a wide band and a large rose window crossed diagonally by 2 pairs of bars intersecting at right angles, with cinquefoils in the outer angles.

The presbytery situated to the NE of the church is of stone construction and has two storeys plus basement, under a pitched roof of slate with ridge and gable stacks; it has a coped stone plinth and raised and coped verges with water tables. The rear and side elevations have ashlar banding. The S elevation has three bays, that to the centre and right with double-height canted bay windows and pyramidal roofs with metal cross finials. There are cusped heads to all lights. The left entrance bay has a tall square-headed entrance reached by stone steps flanked by short, coped stone walls; the opening, fitted with double doors, has moulded jambs and an overlight of triple quatrefoils. The left return is blind and has a set-back two-storey bay with an attached single lean-to providing a linking block to the church; this has stepped single lancets with trefoil heads lighting a stair. The right return has a small single-storey attached building; the scar of the formally larger outbuilding in brick is visible on the E gable of the presbytery, which also has a two-light cusped head window to the ground floor and a stone cross finial to the apex. The rear elevation has a central shoulder-arched entrance with an inset twelve-panel door, flanked by a single and a two-light mullioned window to the right and a two-light window mullioned window to the left. Above is a cross window with a pair of rectangular lights with quatrefoils above, flanked by similar windows to those of the ground floor.

INTERIOR: the original sanctuary has a marble floor and plastered and painted walls with stained glass to its paired lancet windows, and a large crucifix hangs from the ribbed roof. The stained glass depicts Our Lady and St Patrick to the centre flanked by St Joseph, St Gregory and St Cuthbert. The Caen stone reredos is elaborately carved with triple pinnacled and crocketed canopies and filigree finials. The high altar is reached by three marble steps and has a frontal, including a carving of St Patrick, supported on slender marble shafts with foliate capitals. The side chapels each have ornately carved altars with pinnacled and crocketed canopies, and are fronted by a section of the former Derbyshire granite communion rails, pierced by two rows of quatrefoils. The very high stone chancel arch has slim inner shafts terminating in naturalistic foliated capitals, and similar outer shafts continued over the head as a hoodmould. The extended sanctuary is reached by a pair of steps, and the gothic stone pulpit stands immediately to the left of the chancel arch. The multi-sided pulpit is elaborately carved with a clustered Derbyshire granite base and a pierced gothic balustrade. The four-bay nave has plain plastered and painted walls and a pitch pine scissor braced roof. There is a sill band to the clerestory windows incorporating corbels supporting the trusses of the roof. The arcades are composed of circular columns with splayed heads and moulded octagonal capitals, with matching responds, supporting two-centred arches with hoodmoulds which have in the springing large and long corbels, said to be shaped like those at Exeter Cathedral, each carved with a different naturalistic fruit and leaf pattern. The Stations of the Cross are also of Caen stone, as is the ornate gothic font. The W gallery is reached by a staircase, lit by a trefoil-headed lancet in the turret at the SW corner of the nave; the organ dating from 1902 has figured panels. The area of the nave beneath the gallery has been partitioned by a glazed timber screen and incorporates seating and kitchen facilities. The baptistery (now converted to toilet facilities) retains its original ornate metal gates with pierced quatrefoils.

The presbytery retains its original plan throughout. To the ground floor a vestibule with geometric tiled floor and simple cornice opens through a round-arch into a stair hall with a corridor off to the right giving access to the principal rooms and to the left a steep and wide staircase leads to the sacristy and church. There is original simple joinery and plasterwork throughout, and the principal ground floor rooms have windows in arched recesses and retain original chimney pieces. The original panelled dog-leg stair has double newels posts and stick balusters. The rear of the house contains the kitchen and service rooms. The first floor has mostly four-panel doors and simple plasterwork including window arches and at least one fireplace.

SUBSIDIARY ITEMS: at the entrance to both the church and the presbytery there are ashlar, square-plan gate piers with chamfered corners. They have octagonal moulded caps with octagonal acorn finials. These structures contribute to the special interest of the principal building and are included in the listing.


Books and journals: Brown, Paul, Faith in the past, present and future, (2005); Hartwell, C, Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Lancashire North, (2009), 680-1

Websites: Peter Paul Pugin, accessed 22-02-2017 from The National Pipe Organ Register, accessed 22-02-2017 from

Heritage Details

Architect: Pugin & Pugin

Original Date: 1880

Conservation Area: No

Listed Grade: Grade II